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Ϊ : The Ukrainian Blues (and Yellows)

01:12 25.09.2011

  Ϊ : The Ukrainian Blues (and Yellows)

This week a blue and yellow flag appeared on my building. Twenty years ago this flag was illegal here. Ukraine was still part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the flag was a symbol of independence.

On Aug. 24, 1991, thousands of Ukrainians gathered around their parliament building. They held up a huge blue and yellow flag and chanted pro-independence slogans. Inside, parliamentarians debated what to do in the wake of a failed coup in Moscow. Late in the afternoon, the parliament declared independence. The pro-democracy deputies then went outside and took the flag, brought it into the chamber and draped it over the large Lenin statue at the head of the room.

This week Ukraine celebrated the 20th anniversary of its independence, but there is little celebratory spirit going around. Most Ukrainians are disillusioned with the results of the last two decades. Opinion polls put support for independence from Russia at roughly 50%, from about 90% in 1991.

Malaise and a sense of powerlessness are pervasive among ordinary Ukrainians. Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic co-leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution with the braid, has been behind bars for weeks. When a government throws a member of the opposition into jail for corruption, in a country rife with corruption on all levels, citizens are reminded of just how vulnerable they are.

Dinner with a high-ranking judge on Tuesday night both horrified and inspired me. My dinner companion, who is known to refuse bribes, calmly explained how the entire legal system is easily manipulated to protect the powerful. One recent Friday, she told me, she left the office early. While driving home she received a call from her assistant. The computer system that randomly assigns judges to cases had displayed her name on a high-profile case. She turned her car around. By the time she returned to the office, the computer system had crashed. On Monday morning another judge's name appeared on the case.

A lot has changed over the past 20 years. The country introduced some market reforms, though the economy went from being controlled by a few powerful politicians to being controlled by a few powerful politicians' friends—"businessmen," better known as oligarchs in Ukraine. This coterie also controls most of the country's mass media. More recently, President Viktor Yanukovych's 18-month-old government has begun to roll back the free-speech protections that were introduced by his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko.

Most Ukrainians remain far more free than they were 20 years ago, though many are still poor. The country is both wealthier and more socio-economically stratified than it was and the cost of living has soared, in some areas to European levels. But parts of Ukraine also look and feel European, with charming streets, nice cafes, bookstores, restored monuments, gleaming golden-domed churches and 24-hour supermarkets and gas stations.

A graduate student was late to meet me this week because she got stuck in traffic. Graduate students now own cars. A far cry from 1991, when even members of parliament took public transportation and all the flags were red.

Ms. Dyczok is an associate professor of history and political science at the University of Western Ontario, a fellow at the University of Toronto's Jacyk Programme for the Study of Ukraine and an adjunct professor at the National University of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy. She has authored three books and is currently in Kiev on a research trip.
The Wall Street Journal

Auch nach 20 Jahren Unabhängigkeit bleibt uns die Ukraine ein Rätsel. Wir kennen nur die Klitschko-Brüder oder Julia Timoschenko, die Frau mit der Gretchen-Frisur. Doch wer weiß schon, wie das Land tickt?

 

Die Box-Brüder Klitschko, der Kicker Andrij Schevtschenko, die schöne Mila Jovovisch oder auch die Frau mit der Gretchen-Frisur, Julia Timoschenko: Viele kennen nur die berühmtesten Persönlichkeiten dieses Landes an der östlichen Grenze Europas. Aber wo die Ukraine liegt und vor allem, wie sie denkt, weiß kaum einer.

  • Ukraine heute: Sowjetisches Dauerecho und Europa-Aspirant zugleich
Einerseits marschiert die Ukraine nach Europa, andererseits verharrt sie starr in sowjetischer Nostalgie: Es gibt das stereotype Bild, dass die Bevölkerung der West-Ukraine der EU beitreten will, und der östliche Teil des Landes pro-russisch orientiert ist. Gern wird diese Frage von der Politik zugespitzt auf die Alternativen: EU oder Russland? NATO oder Schwarzmeerflotte? Doch würde man den Wunsch nach Werteorientierung und Demokratie abfragen, wäre die Stimmung in der Bevölkerung überwiegend pro-europäisch. Wenig Moskau, viel Brüssel.

  • Ein Land, zwei „Völker“: Spaltpilz Sprache
Viele Ukrainer wurden von der sowjetischen Regierung im vorigen Jahrhundert gewaltsam nach Sibirien umgesiedelt. Zugleich haben viele Russen sich im östlichen Teil der Ukraine niedergelassen. So spricht die ukrainische Bevölkerung zwei Sprachen: im Westen überwiegend Ukrainisch und im Osten Russisch. Politiker nutzen diesen Umstand clever aus, um die Nation in zwei Teile zu spalten, die Bürger gegeneinander aufzuhetzen und diese Divergenzen für ihre Zwecke zu nutzen.

  • Der Feind in meinem Staat: die ungeliebte Regierung
Angesichts derartiger Befunde ist es nicht besonders verwunderlich, dass in der Ukraine ein tiefes Misstrauen gegenüber der eigenen Regierung herrscht. Nach dem nationalen Widerstand während der Orangen Revolution und der sich anschließenden Enttäuschung über den ausgebliebenen Umbruch sind die Bürger passiv geworden, versuchen sich abzugrenzen. Korruption gehört zum Alltag in der Ukraine.

  • Nicht nur zur Weihnachtszeit: Religion im Alltag
Religion und Kirche spielen in der Ukraine eine große Rolle, und die Gemeinde hat einen starken Einfluss auf Jugendliche. So heiraten fast alle jungen Leute kirchlich, die Kinder werden immer getauft, und wenigstens zweimal im Jahr wird die Kirche sogar von „Fast-Atheisten“ besucht: Weihnachten und Ostern. Normalerweise werden junge Ukrainer von frühester Kindheit an christlich erzogen. Sie werden gelehrt zu beten – und brav zu sein.

  • Liebe zum Schleudersitz: Warum Ukrainer sich nicht anschnallen
Ukrainer hassen es, mit Sicherheitsgurt zu fahren. Das fiel nicht weiter auf – bis jemand, höchstwahrscheinlich in Deutschland, ein Sicherungssystem erfunden hat, dass den Ukrainern auf die Nerven geht: Es piept solange markerschütternd, bis man sich anschnallt. Die Menschen in der Ukraine aber finden es nicht cool, mit Sicherheitsgurt zu fahren. Und deshalb haben sie einen simplen Trick: Sie ziehen den Gurt von vorn nach hinten und machen ihn hinter ihrem Sitz fest. So sieht man auf den Straßen von Kiew und Lemberg Hunderte Porsche, Mercedes oder Audi mit Gurt an der Rückseite des Sitzes. Sicher ist sicher.

  • Land der Geselligkeit: Wie sich Ukrainer bevorzugt die Zeit vertreiben
Daheim in der Stube sitzen und grübeln? Nichts für den typischen Ukrainer! Feiern und kochen – das ist seine Sache. Tatsächlich ist die ukrainische Küche sehr vielfältig. Es gibt kaum eine Nation, die so viele arbeitsfreie Tage und Feste hat wie die Ukraine. Das ist ein willkommener Anlass, die eigenen Talente auszuschöpfen und vorzuzeigen. Die große ukrainische Seele braucht üppige Feste, sagen Ukrainer über sich selbst. Und wenn gerade kein Fest ist, trifft man sich in den vielen Kneipen und Restaurants.

von Olha Luhova

Focus

Nick Clegg: We must stand up to this tyranny on our doorstep

Imagine a country where torture and intimidation are reportedly common place. Where peaceful protesters are locked up - sent to maximum security prison colonies - and free-thinking journalists are harassed. Where a president can rig election-after-election, despite running the economy into the ground. Where most people are too scared to speak out and the death penalty remains.

 

 

 

It could be North Korea, or Zimbabwe, or Iran. But, actually, it's much closer to home: Belarus, right here in Europe - where Alexander Lukashenko's regime continues to tighten its grip on power and ride roughshod over human rights.

If it were not for the tragedy, the regime's current crackdown would be farce. Take their response to a series of silent protests over the summer. In an effort to stay within the law, protestors didn't use slogans, or signs, just occasional hand-clapping. How did the authorities react? They banned applause. At the Independence Day parades, the public was warned against clapping anyone other than veterans or artists. The result was resounding silence.

 

Moves are also underway to make it illegal to gather "for planned action or inaction". In other words, doing nothing in a group is against the law, if you plan it in advance. Kafka would have been impressed.

 

Such abuses of power are a scandal wherever you find them. But they are especially chilling on European soil. 2011 makes it twenty years since the Soviet Union fell. Europeans believed that, for us, dangerous dictators would become a thing of the past, and democracy and liberty would flourish.

 

Yet Belarus is trapped in the past: Europe's shameful secret, right on our doorstep. So I'm determined we speak out and up the pressure on the regime. When popular uprisings exploded across North Africa and the Middle East, the UK took a stand and took it quickly. We will show the same leadership for Belarus.

 

Leaders from the EU and it's "Eastern Partners"- Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus - are gathering in Poland today (Thurs) and tomorrow (Fri) to take forward a stronger partnership between East and West. I'll be demanding, on behalf of the UK, that the international community stands together, using our collective clout to get the Belarusian regime to give people their freedom and join the European mainstream.

 

Lukashenko won't be there. He is, rightly, subject to an EU travel ban. But he and his cronies will be listening. The regime is feeling the pressure after the EU imposed a full package of sanctions earlier this year - a package the Coalition Government pushed hard for. We helped ensure an end to deals with big companies run by Lukashenko's financiers; an embargo on weapons that could be used for internal repression; and we backed the freezing of EU talks with Belarus until we see real change.

 

If there is progress, our door remains open. But our resolve will not slacken. Lukashenko knows the tide is turning against him. His popularity is at its lowest for years. The young and educated are finding their voice. And just as with the Arab Spring, it is economic grievance that underpins growing discontent. This year inflation in Belarus is 60 per cent and rising. Grave economic mismanagement has sent public debt spiralling out of control. Instead of setting out a credible plan for recovery, the regime clings to the failed policies of the past. State ownership and centralised planning stifle competiveness and innovation. A weak, politicised legal system deters foreign investment. The regime denies responsibility, but its citizens won't be fooled.

 

So, in Poland, the Coalition Government will show our solidarity with the Belarusian people. Along with urging European governments to hold firm, the Minister for Europe David Lidington and I will meet exiled Belarusian activists and opposition leaders. I'll also take questions from listeners of European Radio for Belarus, and to them my message will be clear: the UK will not accept Belarus being dragged back to darker days. Europe has come too far to allow it.

 Independent